Rory Gallagher 14th Anniversary Tribute
Right. Let’s get something clear up front. Rory Gallagher is a god. The best artist to ever come out of Ireland, who almost single-handedly kick-started the Irish rock scene. He’s 14 years dead today, Sunday June 14th. And I’m a bit of a fan. (OK, a bit more than a bit) The first time I […]
Right. Let’s get something clear up front. Rory Gallagher is a god. The best artist to ever come out of Ireland, who almost single-handedly kick-started the Irish rock scene. He’s 14 years dead today, Sunday June 14th. And I’m a bit of a fan. (OK, a bit more than a bit)
The first time I heard Rory, I thought I was hearing a Brit or American. I didn’t think we had guitarists like that in this country. Sure, we had Thin Lizzy, but bar Gary Moore, the guitarists weren’t Irish. When asked who this was, the guy in the shop retorted “Rory Gallagher, ya gobshite!”. I was amazed and delighted that Ireland had produced such a talent. And so began the love affair with The Kid.
Electric, acoustic, slide, Delta blues, Chicago blues, rock – you pick it Rory Gallagher could play it. The one irritant for me is that if you mention Rory to people now, they’ll say they know him. And then when asked to name some songs, they’re stuck after Tattoo’d Lady. It really drives me up the wall. The Rory tribute festivals are bringing his music back to the masses, and thank God for them! They’re badly needed, particularly the Ballyshannon one (www.goingtomyhometown.com). And when was the last time you heard any Rory on the radio? Totally ignored. This is one of ours. Lumberjack shirt, denim jacket, battered up guitar and more time for his fans than any artist since the dawn of time. If anyone is worthy of respect in this age of made up stars and reality TV crap, it’s the artists who remember where they came from, and treat the fans with respect. Unlike some of the stuff you see nowadays. Different world.
His music was best suited to playing live, and I think it frustrated him early in his solo career that the studio albums didn’t have that energy that his live show had
Anyway. I finally got to see him live at the Guinness Temple Bar Blues Festival. He gave a free gig on College Green in August ’92, and I was blown away. Everything I’d heard was true. (I could go one about godhood again here). Ronnie Drew got up and played Barley & Grape Rag with him (The Dubliners had done a cover of it). I think I was smiling for a week after that gig. His music was best suited to playing live, and I think it frustrated him early in his solo career that the studio albums didn’t have that energy that his live show had. Then came the Live in Europe and Irish Tour ’74 live albums, and everyone could hear what he was like live. All I know is what it did to me. I was in love. U2 still hadn’t found what they were looking for, but I had.
Born in Ballyshannon, Donegal, in 1948, he was raised in Cork, where he started playing guitar aged 9, was in a band by 12. A seminal moment came in 1963, when he went into a music shop in Cork and bought the now-legendary Fender Strat 1961 that he played for the rest of his life.
He played in showbands to pay off the £100 he paid for the Strat, but in 1966, he formed the blues trio Taste, who went down a storm in Cork, then Belfast, then London. At one point Taste were arguably the biggest band in Europe. In 1969, they were the opening act on Cream’s farewell tour. John Lennon once said they were his favourite band and used to regularly go see them play in The Marquee in London. And they played the Isle of Wight Festival alongside The Who and Jimi Hendrix.
But all good things come to an end. Taste disbanded, and Rory went solo, releasing his self-titled debut in 1971. And thus continued his rise to godhood.
His solo career just highlighted how good he was. During his solo career, Rory released 11 studio and 5 live albums, and made many guest appearances on other artists’ albums. Artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Albert King, Lonnie Donegan, Albert Collins, The Fureys & Davey Arthur, Davy Spillane, The Dubliners, SLF, Phil Coulter……the list just goes on and on. Bands that are now legendary bands like Thin Lizzy and U2 supported them.
Famously, he was asked to join The Rolling Stones. He was their first choice after Mick Taylor left; and he was allegedly Deep Purple’s pick to replace Ritchie Blackmore. And Canned Heat‘s to replace The Eagle. He was on top of the world.
At 10:44am on Wednesday 14th June 1995, Rory Gallagher died
As the years went by, however, problems appeared, in the form of prescription drugs. Rory had a fear of flying, and in the 80’s he was prescribed tranquillisers. Eventually he became addicted, and the downward spiral began. As with all addicts, Rory wouldn’t accept help, despite the repeated attempts of his brother, Donal. Eventually, in early 1995, his body began to fail. Donal managed to persuade Rory to go to a hospital, where he eventually lapsed into a coma, and had to undergo a liver transplant. Everything went well, and Rory was to be transferred back to a hospital close to his home. Two days before his transfer, however, he caught a virus. With his weakened immune system, this was the final straw.
At 10:44am on Wednesday 14th June 1995, Rory Gallagher died.
Thousands turned out for his funeral in Cork. They were outside the church; they lined the route to the graveyard in Ballincollig. All were there to honour one of their own. A local kid done good.
Rory lived the life. He started from nothing, and became a blues legend known and respected the world over. His influence is shown by the number of cities in various countries that have streets named after him. There always seem to be a tribute gig on somewhere. German TV shows his Rockpalast gigs every year. Modern bluesmen like Joe Bonnamassa cover his songs. Rory influenced a whole generation of musicians, like Thin Lizzy and U2, who then went on to influence many of today’s bands.
Rory Gallagher is the grandfather of Irish rock.
Hell, they even put him on a stamp.
Rest In Peace, Rory.
What people have said about Rory:
Roger Glover (Deep Purple / Producer of 1976′s “Calling Card” album):
(First posted to alt.music.deep-purple in August 1995, later published in the October 1995 issue of Record Collector)
“There was no ‘show business’ about Rory – he didn’t worry about looks, clothes, image,etc., his battered Strat said all he had to say to the world”
Glenn Tipton (Judas Priest):
GuitarOne (April 2002, “Under The Influence” section,page 23
“Without a shadow of a doubt, the person who inspired me to become a musician, and who I thought was unbelievable and magical was Rory Gallagher”
K.K.Downing (Judas Priest):
From Hal Leonard Tab Book (Judas Priest, Hell Bent for Leads Lick by Nick Bowcott)
“I was influenced by the playing of Rory Gallagher and used to listen to him so much that I ended up playing just his licks for awhile!!!”
Phil McDonnell (Rory’s Road Manager):
From www.cascadeblues.org, Article Reprint from the March 1999 BluesNotes which refers to “recent issue of Mojo magazine”
“There is a saying in Ireland: First there was Jesus, and then there was Rory.”
Guitar Magazine (August 1995):
“The first Irish rock’n'roller and a unique blues guitar voice rolled into one. Missed by everyone”
Guitar Player magazine (March 1978):
“What Gallagher has to say about blues and rock-and-roll should be required reading for any aspiring guitarist, just as his many records and live performances should be required listening.”
The Edge (Irish Time Arts section, June 1995):
“A beautiful man and an amazing guitar player. We’ll miss him very much”
“Playing on stage with him in LA was one of the biggest thrills for me ever”
Cameron Crowe (Writer/Film Director) (rorygallagher.com):
“It was all about him playing the guitar, it got into your soul”
Johnny Marr (rorygallagher.com):
“One of the things that was crucial for me I got from Rory Gallagher, which was the idea, of, like being a guitar player for life and living it”
“Rory’s death really upset me. I heard about it just before we went on stage, and it put a damper on the evening. I can’t say I knew him that well, but I remember meeting him in our offices once and we spent an hour talking. He was such a nice guy and a great player.”
Brian May (rorygallagher.com):
“So these couple of kids come up, shows me and my mate, and say ‘how do you get your sound, Mr.Gallagher?’ and he sits and tells us. So I owe Rory Gallagher my sound.”
Van Morrison (rorygallagher.com):
“Rory’s death is a tragic loss of a great musician and a very good friend.”
Eric Clapton (rorygallagher.com):
“The man who got me back into blues.”